Muddy meets Emma Rice
Excellent wine and international travel - it's all in a day's work for Hattingley Valley's Head Winemaker, Emma Rice. Muddy caught up with one of the most influential women in wine.
As a director and Head Winemaker at Hampshire’s Hattingley Valley, Emma Rice knows a thing or two about plonk. Considered to be one of the top women in the industry, Muddy had a chat with her about what it’s like having one of the coolest jobs in the world.
How did you get into winemaking?
I was the editor of Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book where I read about Plumpton College doing winemaking courses, I resigned from my job, moved to Brighton and was in the first cohort to graduate with a full BSc in Viticulture & Oenology in 2006.
Hattingley Valley is one of the best sparkling wine producers in all of England. What makes English sparkling wine so special?
The purity of the fruit with a backbone of fine acidity. The long, cool growing season that allows the grapes to develop fantastic flavour at low enough sugar to make high quality, bottle-fermented sparkling wines.
What’s your typical working day like?
No two days are the same. Last week I was in Australia showing our wines to the trade in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, this week we are blending the final wines for the first tirage and bottling of the year.
What would you say is the best bit about your job?
The variety, the travel, but the best bit is harvest each year. It is the pinnacle of the year and the time of year I really get to focus on the vineyards, the grapes and the embryonic wines.
In your career so far, what have you been most proud of?
Watching Hattingley and the team here grow and develop over the last 10 years. The vineyard, winery and brand did not exist in 2008. We are now one of the largest and most successful wineries in the UK.
What do you think the next big wine trend is going to be?
I have no idea but I think a move to adapt regional winemaking styles to the reality of climate change will be vital. I’m not sure Burgundy will be planting Syrah anytime soon but being open to change will be vital for any wine producer to survive.
What advice would you give to someone who is a complete wine novice?
In terms of drinking it, I would say be as adventurous as your budget will allow and find a good local independent merchant for some personalised recommendations.
Would you rather drink excellent wine in a bad location or bad wine in an excellent location?
Hard to say, often location and therefore mood has a serious effect on the enjoyment of wine, as you often find when bringing back the local tipple from your holiday – it doesn’t taste as good in the grey English winter…..
Apart from wine, what is your tipple of choice?
Gin – either with tonic or in a Negroni. Sometimes there is nothing better than a cold beer…. Especially at harvest time when the last thing you want is anything made of grapes!
What do you like to do to relax?
I sing in a choir which I find incredibly therapeutic. Playing the cello also takes me well away from the daily grind. In the summer I enjoy ‘crewing’ on my brother’s yacht in the Solent – this mostly involves mixing the G&Ts just right.